'Freedom Riders' screening features writer, activists

Civil rights activists to join historian Ray Arsenault, MA ’74, Ph.D. ’81 for excerpts and discussion

Photos/ The Nashville Tennessean

Diane Nash with fellow activist Kelly Miller Smith

Freedom Riders Diane Nash, Ellen Ziskind and Paul Breines will join leading historian Ray Arsenault, MA ’74, Ph.D. ’81, for a screening of excerpts from the award-winning documentary film “Freedom Riders,” which chronicles the efforts of civil rights activists to challenge segregation in the American South in 1961.

Arsenault’s 2006 book, “Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” served as the basis for the documentary, which was released in May and recently won three Emmy Awards.

The screening is free and open to the public; it will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, in the Levin Ballroom. Following the screening, Steve Whitfield, Ph.D. '72, the Max Richter Professor of American Civilization at Brandeis, will moderate a Q&A session.

The event is sponsored by the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice.

Nash, a student at Fisk University in Tennessee in 1961, was one of the leaders of the Freedom Rides and served as coordinator of the Nashville Student Movement Ride. She also helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and spent time in jail in solidarity with the "Rock Hill Nine," a group of students imprisoned after a lunch counter sit-in.

Ziskind grew up in Lowell, Mass., and was a college student in the summer of 1961 when she participated in the Freedom Rides. Breines was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when he took part.

“It’s a remarkably compelling story that, for whatever reason, was ignored for many years and not treated as a pivotal moment in American history,” said Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “People are now discovering it.”

Upon its release after 10 years of research and writing, Arsenault’s 704-page book was quickly hailed as the authoritative book on the subject.

“I got to know the Freedom Riders and tried to knit together their stories in a narrative,” said Arsenault, a graduate of the Irving and Rose Crown School of American Civilization at Brandeis. “I was not sure I would ever finish it or do the story justice.”

Copies of the entire "Freedom Riders" documentary will be distributed to attendees. Arsenault will also be available to sign copies of his book.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences

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